During the recent live-streamed event – yoga philosophy and meditation teacher Acharya Das gave a comprehensive overview – Understanding Yoga.
He shares that the most commonly applied meaning of Yoga is that of “a system of physical postures,” but he says that this is not a very full understanding.
Rather, he explains that the term” yoga” is related to a “broader spiritual system, or a system of spiritual realization, which is aimed at both self-realization and God-realization.
But the reality is that the word “yoga” ultimately speaks to a state of consciousness, a state of spiritual existence that is actually the goal of human life; what human life is meant for. This is the understanding that is promoted within the Vedas.” Indeed, the ancient appreciation of the word ”yoga” refers to the union of the individual soul and the Supreme Soul.
Acharya Das also shares that the path of Yoga is broad and is “extremely compassionate and filled with care.”
It is a gradual and progressive journey towards transcendence and is a path on which “different people in different states of consciousness and with different outlooks on life will be able to adopt an aspect of the broader system of Yoga for their spiritual betterment.” Yoga is not just an intellectual, philosophical, or even physical pursuit.
It’s “best understood as being a spiritual path, meaning that it is a life choice; it is a lifestyle. When a person enters onto a true Yoga path, it becomes part of their entire life, and everything that they are doing, and how they’re living, their motivations, their focus, their direction. The system of Yoga speaks about a transformation of consciousness, of total immersion and absorption.”
There are many different types and applications of Yoga, but these should not be viewed like stand-alone and rigid systems. Acharya Das encourages us to think of it like the sun rising: “We can see that the sun rising is a gradual transition, and in a similar way, the different processes of Yoga were promoted so that people in different situations in life would all equally have the opportunity for gradual but full spiritual realization.”
A fundamental understanding of Yoga is that we are spiritual beings temporarily residing within this body. With this, Acharya Das says, comes an understanding that “if I live in a state of falsely identifying with the body or mind, it will always result in distress, pain, and unhappiness.” We need to see the world as temporary and not our home.
Through the practice of Yoga, we are discouraged from seeking perfection of that which is imperfect i.e. the material world. Rather, we should understand that we are “moving through this world, and should be more concerned about our eternal well-being rather than our temporary situation.”
If we become too materially focused, Acharya Das warns that “our plans for a perfect home, our plans for a perfect love, our plan for perfect happiness, all the plans that we have and try to execute in this world, ultimately become baffled.”
Acharya Das shares that another important teaching concerns “our need for an authentic spiritual guide, a true master of that which is spiritual, a master of spiritual knowledge and the spiritual journey, what is called guru.”
We must learn the qualifications of such a person and come to know about their spiritual lineage “so that we will not be misled by someone posing as a spiritual guide but who is truly not qualified.”
This is a pivotal teaching. Acharya Das shares that without a qualified spiritual master, “we are like a sailing ship without a rudder, meaning that the ship is simply being moved by wind and by sea currents. The spiritual master is like a rudder for the ship which is carrying us through this journey of life so our experience can be guided and directed.”
In closing, Acharya Das shares that it is important to embrace the real message of Yoga: “The message of Yoga is a message of great hope. It is a message about self-discovery, discovery of who we really are. It is a message of light. It is a message about the boundless joy that we seek. And it is a message about a limitless ocean of spiritual love.”